In this interview, Avi Staiman of Academic Language Experts and Katie Chin of Brill Publishers, discuss the book publication process at Brill.
Watch the full recording of the interview held on January 26, 2021 as part of the Academic Language Experts ‘Publication Success Interview Series’:
Condensed for a quick read, below are some of the most important take-aways from their conversation.
1. The Book Publishing Process – The First Steps
Avi: Scholars working on their manuscript generally have three questions: who, when, and how?
1. Who are the publishers most relevant for my work?
2. When should I reach out to them?
3. How should the initial contact be made?
Katie: Three great questions! Let’s address them one at a time.
1. Think about the book series and journals you reference during your research. These are good candidates. Oftentimes the source of your research is where it should be published.
2. You could get in touch with Brill at any stage. From the point of a research proposal and through a completed manuscript or anywhere in-between. The stage you send it determines what we're going to do next. All manuscripts will undergo and pass peer review before they're accepted for publication.
3. You can utilize one or more of these options:
a. Email. This is preferable.
b. For journal articles, we have online submissions that link to the responsible acquisitions editor.
c. By approaching a publishing representative at a conference.
Avi: Are there proposal calls for book manuscripts or journals at Brill?
Katie: We do call for manuscripts for when we are building a book series and constructing its content. More commonly we call for journal papers via social media, email, newsletters, conference announcements and list serves.
Avi: What are the requirements for the length of a manuscript?
Katie: Our minimum is about 80,000 words / 200 pages and our limit is about 900 pages. A book’s production price will be determined by multiple factors. The manuscript’s length will be one of them. The longer the script, the higher the price.
Avi: Do you consider books based on dissertations?
Katie: We do publish revised dissertations. But we do not publish straight dissertations that have a lot of background information. To create a monograph, condense your dissertation.
2. Constructing a Publisher's Package
Avi: How can hopeful authors improve the chances of their submission getting noticed and accepted?
Katie: Start by focusing on your target audience. That will dictate everything else. It will lead you to find the best publisher for your project; your writing style; tone; content; the quantity and quality of background and information you include.
Avi: What are the central aspects in constructing a publisher's package?
Katie: There are four main parts to a proposal.
1. a prospectus—a synopsis of your project.
2. a planned table of contents.
3. your intended audience.
4. a schedule of when you think the manuscript is going to be ready.
Avi: Could you explain the difference between a synopsis and an abstract?
Katie: An abstract is generally three to four sentences about your topic. A synopsis gives more detail about your project and can include how it is different than other books in the field. Brevity is key in both. I would say that extended explanations are a science, while condensed ones are an art!
Avi: What is the language quality level that's expected of a pre-publication manuscript?
Katie: A paper presented for peer review does not require language editing prior to submission. However, a reviewer must be able to understand the content. After a paper is accepted copy editing is necessary and the professionals at Academic Language Expertscan provide these services and others.
Avi: Can peer review be done in other languages?
Katie: Yes. Some books are published in French and German because some fields require the fluency of their experts. English has the advantage of reaching the broadest audience.
Avi: What about publication of translations from books published in another language?
Katie: You can approach a publisher for considering translating a work, or translate first and present the English version. Translations are costly and individual volumes and monographs are challenging. Some publishers only focus on larger reference works.
Avi: Does Brill prefer scholars with a publication history or do the content and quality prevail?
Katie: We love working with repeat authors but a professional will place the content and quality first. Publishers work closely with series editors and peer reviewers and rely on their expertise. They look at the content and evaluate its quality and relevance to a series.
Avi: What's the timeline from the proposal submission until the printed book arrives at the front door?
Katie: The initial proposal review takes a couple of weeks. This enables us and the series editor to read through it. Then you take the time you need to write the manuscript. Once the manuscript is in, the peer review process takes two to three months. Then again, it is in your court for implementing revisions. Your final manuscript, including all texts and images, is sent to the Production Department. That takes at most six months.
Bottom line: it is possible to have a book published in six months to a year.
3. Open-Access Publishing
Avi: What is the process of open-access publications of journals and full-length manuscripts?
Katie: There are fees associated with publishing in open-access (unless you are accepted for in an open-access journal).
Brill has over 500 books, 10,000 articles, and 30 open-access journals in publication. We also cooperate in open-access enterprises and help provide funding opportunities.
The Open Access department can help you figure out ways to publish in open-access. This can be done when you're submitting your proposal or even after the book is published. When applying for research funding, consider allocating a budget for open-access publications.
Avi: What are the open-access trends in the publishing industry that you think researchers should be conscious of?
Katie: People are moving to an online world, but there is still a demand for print. Most of the published content goes simultaneously to print and online. Focus is given to how we interact with the published and online versions, digital humanities, online tools, and how our content is consumed.
In terms of the impact on research, these two spheres influence each other. What we publish will impact research, and the way researchers utilize their content affects the ways we publish it. Ultimately the strategic goal of publication is the dissemination of knowledge. Virtual and hard-printed materials are both means to the same end.
Avi: What is the difference between publishing with privately-owned publishers versus a university press?
Katie: University presses look for texts that appeal to academics but also to those who are interested in a topic but lack the academic foundations. Privately owned publishers may develop more specialized fields with a more limited academic audience. Some may also have international connections beyond that of some university presses.
Avi: Do publishers automatically disqualify previously published projects?
Katie: No, but we do shy away from republishing content. The growth of online publications has limited the market of republication. Regarding permissions for republishing it is vital to contact the original publisher. Usually, republishing an article in a larger manuscript is permitted pending citing the original publication.
Avi: Is it acceptable to simultaneously query two different acquisitions editors within the same publishing house or two separate publishers?
Katie: Sending it to different publications is acceptable at the proposal stage. If you're not sure where it would fit, you may contact multiple acquisitions editors. Once passed the first hurdle, remember, most publishers will demand a commitment.
Avi: What are the costs or expenses that are involved for authors? Are there book royalties?
Katie: When it comes to dollars, cents, and euros, publishers will differ from one another. Here are some basic costs that should be considered and can be negotiated:
1. a subvention for publishing.
2. copy editing
3. obtaining permissions for content
4. open-access publication
5. paid images, graphs, photographs, etc.
Regarding royalties, like many things in life, it’s negotiable. Considering the limited paying audience, this is not going to be your retirement fund.
Avi Staiman is the CEO of Academic Language Experts, a company that provides customized translation, editing, and academic support services to researchers, scientists and other professionals to help them produce publication-ready texts at the highest level.
Katie Chin is the Acquisitions Editor Ancient Near East & Jewish Studies at Brill Publishers. Brill is one of the leading academic publishers in the Humanities, Social Sciences, International Law and Biology, with a broad Open Access portfolio consisting of more than 450 books and several thousand journal articles.